In Conversation With...

Issue 70

ANNA REAY Professional Singer and Entertainer

What were your career ambitions growing up? Apparently, I could sing before I could talk. My parents said I used to hum the superman theme in my highchair with one hand in the air. I think they knew at that point there was no way I’d become a superhero so they settled for a singer! I remember when I was four years old, travelling on the bus with my mam into Newcastle and I sang ‘Molly Malone’ for the full 20 minute journey and this lovely lady gave me 50p “for entertaining her”! I was over the moon – first paid gig! Describe your career path so far? Music was a big part of my life throughout school then I finished my education with BA(hons) Music. I joined several bands from backing singing and lead in a function band and solo gigs ‘learning my trade’ throughout studying. My singing teacher put me forward for my first ever audition which I thought would be good practise. I certainly did not expect to get the job – but I did! And within two weeks from the audition date I was on my first ever cruise, I was excited, nervous and shell shocked! It was a two month contract onboard MV Van Gogh and was the best time of my life. I learned so much about myself and my profession. I was in the production team but I really wanted to go back on as a guest entertainer. When I returned home, I started up in business ‘Anna Reay’ and my career really took off from this point. Sailing the seven seas on luxury cruises and flybacks abroad…And still managed to set up and run a successful band back at home! With the ‘Anna Reay Band’ we have performed for some fabulous events, balls, cruises and theatre shows in some prestigious venues such as the Sage, Whitley Bay playhouse, Durham Gala Theatre, Customs House. What advice would you give to someone starting in the performance industry? Never stop learning, never stop networking, always have business cards with you! For me, I need to be self sufficient and self motivated. I don’t just sing, I organise the events, the PR, promotion and marketing. I do a lot on social media too so I think its really important to do as much as you can yourself. What was the inspiration behind the recent launch of Annagrams? When the pandemic hit it was as if someone had tipped my diary upside down and the gigs all just fell out! It was a worrying time financially and after two weeks into the lockdown, not performing really affected my mental health. It made me realise how important music was in my life. It’s not just my profession, it’s my passion. I had a lightbulb moment which was the inspiration behind Annagrams – I googled ‘how to get more followers on youtube’. I was greeted by a man shouting “stop thinking about yourself and think about what you can give to other people”! Genius! I’ve not only changed my whole mind-set but my set up. I have adapted a business used to the mass crowds to unique and personalised gifts through music. Annagrams are Virtual Greetings Songs, personalised songs recorded and framed, and surprise doorstep performances delivered to your phone, computer or doorstep. They have been like therapy for me and seeing the impact these performances have had on people has been really rewarding. What has been your proudest achievement? Annagrams! I’ve managed to set up a successful business in the industry which has been hit the hardest during the pandemic – which also found me a place as a finalist in the Great British Entrepreneur awards 2020! This was a huge achievement for me. I have worked so hard all the way through the lockdown just to be able to continue doing what I love. Some days have been emotionally draining. I have gone from joyful occasions, weddings, celebrations to singing for socially distanced funerals, vulnerable couples shielding and terminally ill. I’ve been booked to sing for usual celebrations but also sad circumstances such as cancelled events and postponed parties. But what a job to have, whether it has been connecting people through a special song, a bit of company to lonely families torn apart through Covid to bringing comfort to the bereaved. What does the future hold for you post pandemic? I have so many exciting things happening. When I started Annagrams I thought it would be a lockdown project but not only have I got bookings in throughout the year, I have had enquires all over the country so I’m just about to start (don’t laugh!) ‘Annagrams on tour’! I will be heading to certain areas in the country to perform on doorsteps/ carparks/fields etc. Just about anywhere in any weather! I have not only revamped the way I perform but I have adapted my car so I am practically weatherproof! I will continue to promote our charity single ‘She Is One In A Million’ which is a collaboration between myself and Flavour Nabania in memory of a little girl. Also, in the next couple of weeks we are planning on releasing another charity single inspired by a lovely lady, Julie Goring. I sang for Julie a few weeks ago she has terminal Melanoma. Her story is heart breaking. I want to do as much as I can for her, raise awareness of this awful disease and help share her story. I am also planning a run of theatre gigs post pandemic with a promoter which will start Spring 2022. What is the best advice you’ve been given in your career? “You should perform every gig as if you’re in the Albert Hall.” This is so true! I’ve performed in a football stadium to capacity crowds, theatres to a full house to singing to one person in their doorway. I am there to entertain and as they say ‘its not the quantity it’s the quality’, whether that is thousands or one person, they deserve the best I can do – every time!

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